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What’s happening in office environments around the world?

8/29/17 2:50 PM

The Optimaze Workplace Review is a benchmark report based on global space utilization data.


Traditional workspaces are evolving rapidly toward flexible workplace strategy models. This is just one of the insights offered up by the the Optimaze Workplace Review 2016, a benchmark report based on global space utilization assessment data.

In their quest to support a happier, more productive, and healthier workforce, companies across the globe are increasingly adopting various flex work programs and strategies. The ultimate end goal is to attract and retain talented workers.

For growth companies, one of the key benefits of offering flexible work arrangements is the ability to recruit top talent from anywhere, regardless of location. This strategy affects the talent pool available to established companies and forces them to evaluate their workplace strategies.

Whether the aim is to increase organizational performance, reduce sick days and absenteeism (or even worse, presenteeism), or lower turnover of high value employees - companies recognize the importance of enhancing the employee experience and offering flexible working policies to remain competitive in talent acquisition. 

Top trends impacting workplaces include:

  • increased mobility
  • remote work and working from home
  • changes in meeting cultures
  • coworking
  • activity-based working
  • flexible work schedules
  • compressed workweeks
  • job sharing
  • part-time work

Additionally, many companies have developed company-specific workplace strategies to enhance productivity, well-being, and innovation, while lowering fixed costs through space optimization.

How has all of this influenced the way we use office space?

The recently published study, Optimaze Workplace Review – Insights from 2016 [May/2017] by Rapal Oy and Optimaze, Inc., demonstrates that commercial workspaces are in the midst of undergoing a revolutionary change toward a sharing economy with more resource efficient, flexible workplace strategy models. The findings are based on global space utilization data that outlines the cultural shift away from the traditional office environment where there could be the potential for billions of dollars of under-utilized space.

Workplace diagnostics data provide a base for comparison

The international Optimaze Workplace Review – Insights from 2016 workplace analysis covers space utilization measurement data collected from 15 countries and is likely the largest observational workplace study conducted in 2016. The 330 observational space utilization studies, with more than 6,600 walkthroughs through the workplaces of more than 23,000 people in 111 buildings and 53,600 seats around the world. Each observational study consisted of at least two observational walkthrough rounds per day during a typical two week period. The end result is a dataset of approximately 354 million work seat observations in total.

Infograph highlighting Rapal's report  findings shows e.g. the percentage of empty work desks.

Some highlights from the report are shown in the infograph above. Reviewing the data across all offices participating in the study, at any given time, even at peak use, on average at least 30% of work desks were empty and unreserved. The percentage of consistently unused seats is even higher when it comes to temporary ‘soft’ seating and meeting seats. Meeting rooms were used on average only 44% of the time, as more and more meetings today are short, unscheduled, technology-enabled and less formal.

Facilitate agile, activity-based working with flexible work policies

Additionally, a large percentage of desks and meeting rooms are under-utilized, while at the same time seating capacity is on average over-dimensioned, resulting in a lot of wasted space. The data shows that offices and conference rooms are not supporting the knowledge work evolution that facilitates agile, activity-based working. With technology-enabled mobility and a near-paper-free office environment that requires less storage space, the density of offices will increase thus making offices smaller. Activity-based offices that embrace flexible work policies were found to be approximately 40% more efficient in their use of space than traditional enclosed offices that provide single room offices. Workplace satisfaction and well-being were also clearly higher for those in offices with flex work policies.

Base your workplace strategies on company-specific data

As leaders increasingly place workplace strategies higher on their agendas, and demanding a greater understanding of Workplace KPI’s, the The Optimaze Workplace Review report is a great springboard for data-based conversations with leadership teams about developing future-forward workplace strategies. However, while change can be good, it is important to understand that workplace strategies are not one size fits all — they should support your company’s culture and business goals.
Activity based working, remote work options and shared workspaces (among other flexible workplace models) may not align with all company profiles and their corresponding workplace strategies. The details, and actionable considerations, are in the data.
That’s why your own workplace strategy must be based on your own needs. With a proper space utilization and work activity diagnosis, you’ll have key, company-specific facts to work with.
If you are interested in obtaining the Full Report, the executive summary or doing your own space utilization studies and workplace surveys, please contact Optimaze, Inc. (United States and Canada) or Rapal Oy for further information.

[This is an edited blog entry, originally posted as a guest blog for LiquidSpace on June 28th, 2017. Read the entire post here:]

Pontus Kihlman

Written by Pontus Kihlman

Head of Business Development & Executive Consultant, Workplace Insights, Optimaze | Rapal